My Department has invested in the development of enterprise/co-working hubs in every region through the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, Border Enterprise Development Fund and Regional Enterprise Transition Scheme. These Schemes were open to not-for-profit DACs and CLGs, while the BEDF was also open to public bodies, and did not fund private sector hubs.
Last November, the Tánaiste announced €8.24m in grants for 95 for-profit and not-for-profit Enterprise Centres under Enterprise Ireland’s Enterprise Centres Fund. Such centres provide space and training for entrepreneurs, allowing them to work remotely, access training and network with other business leaders. Some private sector centres were supported under this Scheme which was a Covid Response. At that stage 12 private sector centres were funded to assist with Covid 19 related measures necessary to adapt their premises. Enterprise Ireland also funded over 80 not-for-profit centres under this Scheme.
To build on the capacity of these centres to offer remote working facilities, a central objective of Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Powering the Regions’ is the Worksmart Challenge, which aims to support 10,000 co-working and incubation spaces. I have been advised that Enterprise Ireland has appointed a full time resource to maximise the opportunity for remote working in the network of over 200 EI supported hubs developed since 1998.
I can also advise the Deputy that the Department of Rural and Community Development in line with Our Rural Future, Ireland’s Rural Development Policy 2021-2025, operates a number of funding schemes that focus on projects supporting remote working through the development of hubs, including the development of Broadband Connection Points as long-term, digitally-enabled community assets.
DRCD’s Rural Regeneration and Development Fund supports the establishment of new digital/co-working hubs. The lead partner of projects must be a State funded body, but collaboration with the private sector is encouraged. To date, RRDF funding of €67 million has been approved for 44 projects that will develop or deliver Hubs that will provide remote working facilities in rural towns and villages and their outlying areas.
Support for new remote working hubs is also one of the areas being prioritised under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme focusing on establishing new remote working facilities where properties are currently vacant or where existing community/ publicly owned buildings can be repurposed. This latest call closed to applications in July 2021 and the assessment process is currently underway, with successful projects set to be announced by the end of the year.
Last May, DRCD launched the National Connected Hubs network together with the connectedhubs.ie platform. This platform will offer a suite of booking, hub management and e-commerce applications to members of the Network. Earlier this year, through the Connected Hubs funding stream, €9 million in funding was awarded to 118 successful applicants. This funding will allow for the expansion of existing public/private hub facilities and remote working infrastructure throughout the country.
My Department’s ‘National Remote Work Strategy’ is our plan to ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social, and environmental benefits. My Department is currently focused on the implementation of this Strategy.